Venice, famous for its film festival is now set to become one of the highlights of the television calendar.

Kicking off next March (March 21-26, 2002) Venice will be host to a new festival organised by the Associazone Prodottore Televisisi (Italy's association of independent television producers) and Venezia Fiere. The debut event will be made up of three strands: a multi-genre European competition, project market: the Venice Pitchings and a convention.

Festival organiser Marlene Sternbaum said: "producers and broadcasters cannot put more money into projects until we have built a European industry. We hope to help that with our European competition programme. National programmes have conquered domestic markets, now they have to do so on a European scale."

Sternbaum expects to play host to some 60 pictures in the four sections, fiction, documentaries, animated cartoons and formats. With the blessing of every major Italian TV player and foreign associations such as the UK's Producers' Alliance for Cinema and Television (PACT), she forecasts the involvement of over 600 companies. "Many will actually be invited through the Pitchings and conference programmes."

The festival dismissed suggestions that the dates would be problematic. "Unlike Monte Carlo, which used to be held just a few weeks before, in late February, we are not proposing another programmes market," said Sternbaum.